Donation Yardsale

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Andrew, Emma and I got rid of a lot of stuff this weekend. We had a yardsale.  Whether or not it was useful stuff, is up for debate.  But it did facilitate a discussion with the people who took it off our hands.

When we had Emma, 4 and a half years ago, we immediately put her on the list for the baby room at the Boys and Girls Club of Yarmouth.

For those of you that are sans babies or have reliable daycare available in the form of family, it's hard to get daycare for a 1 year old. Most daycares take 18 months and up.

It's even more difficult to find a daycare for a 1 year old that doesn't have television time in their schedule or doesn't rely on a diet of cookies, hot dogs and mac and cheese.

The Boys and Girls Club had everything we wanted and supported all we did in Emma's transition to being out of the home.

We were thrilled when we found out Emma could start daycare at the Boys and Girls Club- Bond street, just a couple days before I returned to work.

I had no idea what I was getting into: working full time, with a toddler and a husband that owns his own business.

Emma has been at the Bond street Boys and Girls club now for almost 4 years....and this week she leaves to go the Early Years Centre across from Central School. It's a happy transition. It's a step in the process of growing up. But it's hard.

The ECEs, teachers and volunteers at the Boys and Girls club have seen Emma and I through nursing while returning to work, cloth diapering while returning to work, weaning, figuring out napping, potty training, learning how to talk, picky eating, endless colds, flus, illnesses, writing names, learning shapes, colors, numbers, letters, learning empathy, compassion and social skills.

How does one say thank you?

For being the people that were there for your child, when you could not be.

For being the people that help you figure out this whole parenting thing.

It's near impossible.

But we do what we can.

Andrew and I talked about having a yardsale for some time.  The need to purge stuff. We weren't looking to make lots of money. We just wanted to get rid of stuff.

I had the idea of a free-sale. Take this stuff I don't use...  If you can use it, take it.

But then we talked about maybe taking donations for a cause. We realized it was perfect timing.

So yesterday, we had a yardsale. Gave others the opportunity to take things that we did not need anymore..and make a donation instead of giving money to us.

Some people took things without making a donation.  And that's ok. You don't know what battles people are fighting.

Others were amazingly generous to the cause.

I wish that we could give more. We will be giving the Boys and Girls Club $124.15. A drop in the bucket for purchasing all the food, supplies, paying for and maintaining the building, paying for heat, electricity and utilities.... salaries.

Oh did I mention?

These amazing people...the ones I trust my child's life, well being, and development with every day during the work week.... some of them make minimum wage. Some just above.

Most ECEs do not have benefits. No sick time. No health or dental benefits.

So maybe while I can only give $124.15 to thank them, the real gift would be to spread ongoing awareness and advocacy for professional pay for professional work. So I will.  We will.

In short, they deserve more. For the expectations we have of them?  They deserve more.

(I mean seriously who else could look after a roomful of screaming toddlers 5 days a week and maintain sanity?)

You can find out more at http://nschildcareassociation.org/worthy-wage-day-2015/

Thanks to every person that spent time with Emma at the Boys and Girls Club. Every hug that was given, every word of discipline. Every piece of advice, every diaper changed. Every drop of spit up that was mopped up, every lunch provided. Every story read, every game played. Every good day we had, and every bad.

It means so much to us.

K.

Emma's first mother's day gift from daycare. Courtesy of Nicole LeBlanc and Brittany Wray ;)







Standup Paddleboarding

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

So a 'fan' asked to me to blog about my experience stand up paddle boarding. (And by fan I mean, the father of one of the girls I went with...so the word 'fan' might be a bit biased.)

(and by asked me to blog, I really meant that he asked if I was going to blog about it....)

Ahem...In other news, stand up paddle boarding seems to be the new popular water sport! I see pics of people doing it everywhere: the ocean, the lake, on vacation in gorgeous countries.

Well, we tried to re-create the vacation-in-gorgeous-countries one with Y-Town Board Company in Raynardton.

I am not sure what lake system they are situated on, but it's beautiful.  The owners have a lovely sloping property, down to the lake.

The paddle boards themselves are large, high density foam boards and are made by a manufacturer called Kahuna.

We were oriented by one of the owners to the boards and all the details re: how to get on and stand up etc.

I was there with two friends. We eagerly wrapped on the ankle strap that prevents you from getting separated from your board, if you fall in, grabbed the board and got in the water. We got on the board in shallow water, which made it easier to put one knee on and then the other. So there we were....on all fours on a paddle board in the lake.

The owner was instructing us on how to stabilize and stand up.

You basically have to get in a squat with flat heels, knees to chin, and then stand up.

Sounds simple enough.

I think I had a very clear picture of how I would look on a paddle board.  Before we went too far away from shore, the owner advised that we could take off our PFDs and do yoga or similar once we got comfortable with the stability of the board.

Figured we would all look like this in no time:


(shhh....you naysayers...never mind I can't do this on dry land. The serenity and calmness of the water and being on the board would support my core and give me licorice-worthy back bendiness)

But first...must stand up.

Hmmm....feet can't get flat without sitting on bum.

Try again.

Man...this PFD really increases my chest size. (and that is one area I do not need assistance).

Oops, fell back on bum again.

Alright...let's figure this out.  

Try to stand up without flat feet. 

Oh, what's this?

Oh, this is your head, aiming for the water.

Goodbye horizon.

In the water now.

Yep..you are in the water.

Not cold...just prefer head above water.

Get head above water.

Aspirate small amounts of water while taking deep breath in. 

cough cough cough.

Oh shoot.....did she tell us how to get back on a board if you fall in?

Nope.

Darn (but I didn't say darn).

Let's think back to your canoeing days in Venturers, Katie.

Grab, the opposite side of the board and pull yourself on.

Phew.  

Made it.

Nothing to see here.

Just a bruised ego and two friends holding back laughter (They didn't look like they were laughing, but I am sure it crossed their minds).


So adrenaline really kicks in when you fall in the water unexpectedly. But I calmed myself down and agreed with the owner that maybe I would spend some time getting used to the board while kneeling and paddling.

Which I did...and had a fabulous next hour and a half on the water with the girls. It was gorgeous, the water was warm and we even grabbed on to each others boards and had a relaxing lie down in the middle of the lake, at one point. 

Super fun. Super gorgeous evening. All in all, an awesome experience.

The girls encouraged me to try standing again on the board.  I came closer to the shore this time and tried again.  Not too sure what I did differently this time (?wider stance?) but it worked out.  Like in yoga, sometimes it works out better if you don't think about it too much (like full wheel). 

Interestingly, you work significantly different muscles in different positions while paddling on the board and I think I prefer sitting down. My thighs got a needed a work out. 

Anyhow, if you are so inclined to try, I really recommend Y-Town Board Company paddleboarding. You don't even feel like you are getting active and it's such a relaxing, fun way to spend the evening. Maybe if you are awkward in the water or have difficulty with balance, I suggest the Paddleboarding clinic, as opposed to just renting with basic instruction. 

So then you don't end up like this:



Good Luck and be safe in all your time on the water!

Happy almost Thursday!

K.



















Anna Olson's Pancakes + Pancake Technique

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Guys, I can't lie.  My pancake game is strong.

It's been several years in experimentation, but I have (I believe anyway) perfected it!

I swear if you take the time and have the patience, you will never use Aunt Jemima pancake/add-water pancake mix again. Cuz once you go 'scratch', you never go back.


I have been using Anna's Olson's recipe for a bit (She is a Canadian baker queen!).

Basically, here is the recipe (tweaked a little for my taste):

1 1/4 c AP flour
2 Tbsp of granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of table salt
1 large egg
1 cup of milk (I often use buttermilk, if I have it on hand)
1/4 cup of sour cream or yogurt (I use greek yogurt cuz it's extra thick)
1 tbsp of melted butter
1 tsp of vanilla
at least one cup of frozen or fresh blueberries. Add more to taste, if you like.

So while the recipe is amazing, the technique has to be on point too. Here's where my years of experimentation come in! (Oh dear, I sound so lame!)

I am sure we have all been a victim of the "throw-away-first-pancake".

Usually the culprit of a too hot or too cold pan.

So here's my first tip: Before you even start to put the ingredients in a bowl...take a frying pan or two (I use two non-stick frying pans) and put them on low.  On my stove, I turn them on '2" out of a total of an '8' analog scale. This lets the pans heat up slowly and evenly. I use a few drops of canola oil in the pan, as well.  This low temp lets the oil come up to temp slowly. This way you can't burn the pancakes right off the bat.

Second tip: Sift your dry ingredients.  My sifter is a dollar-store-grade metal sifter. It works by aerating your dry ingredients, leading to less chance of clumping of the ingredients and allowing for more air incorporation (i.e. fluffiness). (It also catches those weird things that sometimes end up in flour bags....I can't even.)



So, sift your flour, sugar, b. powder and b. soda and salt into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk your milk, sour cream, egg and vanilla. Melt your butter and let it cool slightly, before you drizzle it in, while gently whisking. This ensures that hot butter does not clump up once it hits the cold ingredients, and it doesn't scramble your egg.




Now gently fold in your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients. Add your blueberries. The mixture should be quite thick. Similar to a coffee cake batter.



Let your batter sit for a few minutes in a warm place and keep an eye on it. You will start to see the chemical reaction (air bubbles) come to the surface. Take a small spoon and do a test drip of batter into the pan. If it bubbles furiously, your pan is too hot. If it doesn't appear to be cooking at all, your pan is not up to temperature yet. You can always turn it up a notch (on my stove, a '3').
Look at this little guy!  He was toast..ahem


When you are confident that the pan is ready, spoon the batter into it. I use a ladle to spoon a large amount of mixture into my pans and smooth it around with a mixing spatula.



Now my biggest tip: PATIENCE!

It will take a while for the pancake to cook. Usually about 4- minutes per side (now you know why I go for the big pancakes and two pans!).  You know it's ready to flip, when air bubbles rise to the surface and when you turn up the edge it is golden brown.



When both sides are browned, put this big guy in a warm place (like in the oven on low) and when ready to serve, top with everything and anything!  This morning I did strawberries, plain greek yogurt and maple syrup (by the way...splurge on real maple syrup for these pancakes...and for always).

Basically, this technique really does make you think about a pancake as a 'cake'.
While these are definitely a 'weekend pancake', take your time and I swear you will enjoy the spoils. Now, please excuse me as I roll away from the table.



Have a great week!

K.






Bathroom reno

Thursday, 20 August 2015

So one aspect of preparing to build a new house is to decide what to do with your old one.

 We live in what used to be one big family home, that was divided into two apartments: the upstairs and the downstairs. The upstairs is two bedrooms, one bathroom, and the downstairs is two bedrooms, two bathrooms. Perfect for a married couple with no children (at the time). Especially, when one member of the couple is a frugal accountant, that likes renting to tenants, to help pay for the mortgage.

We purchased our home when the Yarmouth market was at a height. The CAT ferry was running. Foreigners/tourists were purchasing homes and land. Lobster prices were higher. Not soon after we purchased, the economy went into the toilet.

Adding the work we did in renos on the house (installing heat pumps, updating the electrical upstairs, adding in suite laundry upstairs, figuring out a solution to drainage issues in the basement.... oh and there is more...), it did not make sense to try to sell this giant.

Basically, sometimes...I feel like Andrew is Tom Hanks and I am Shelley Long in "The Money Pit". Except Andrew hasn't gotten stuck in a rug in a hole in the floor....yet...there is still time (and for those of you that just googled "The Money Pit"...I don't know if we can be friends).

The take home msg: we are keeping the monster house, and going to rent out our apartment, as well as the upstairs.

This past weekend, we spent doing some work on the bedroom.  Mostly painting...But what has really been on our minds is the reno of our guest bathroom.

Our guest bath is basically stolen space from a non-usable front deck. It's probably not to code...but it works. It's a good thing to have. It's a super tight space and was basically a DIY. Not a well done one either.

Last year, we got some quotes to redo this space (replace the stand up shower, drywall etc.).  Basically, no matter what the size of your bathroom, everything is still freakin' expensive.  Guess what: it costs the same amount to move plumping in a large bathroom as it does a small bathroom. Drywall, taping and mudding is still expensive. Fixtures are still ridiculous amounts.  It was an eye opener and we decided to prioritize the basement drainage stuff instead.

So, new year...new priorities.

Yep, still expensive!

But onward and upward. Looking forward to sharing some demo pics and and getting the last room up to snuff. At least we have another bathroom to hold us over! Although, who knows what luck we might have..





Happy almost Friday!!

K.

Sweet Home

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

So up until recently I had a dryer that liked to eat spaghetti straps. So frustrating.  Whether it be on tank tops or dresses...mine or Emma's.  The dryer fancied itself some fabric.

I took it for a while.  Dryers are expensive and there is nothing wrong with the dryer otherwise.  It dries really well. Not super efficient, but definitely has been worth the money since we got it 8 years ago.

Anyway, I got to a point where I was just fed up. Ya know...gave the husband the ultimatum...a new dryer...or else...I would keep buying new clothes to replace the ones it had eaten. Cuz I would never do anything practical, like hang the clothes with straps to dry.

In my defense..it attempts to eat bras, zippers...anything that it can hold on to and spin it around and around until it breaks.

So new dryer, over new clothes it was!

Now, where to start?

So have you tried to look for a dryer recently?  Try to figure out where to buy it or what kind or what specs.. so overwhelming: the amount of brands, features, prices, reviews. It's really hard to tell what is biased commentary and reviews and what is not.

Andrew and I started using a review site a few years ago called the Sweet Home (www.thesweethome.com). In short, it reviews anything house hold related. Tests everything out there and repeats the testing and repeats it. It's a site from the U.S., but everything that I have purchased, based upon reviews, was available in Canada.

One of the things that I love, is that it doesn't just give you the best option, but also runner up options, in case you can't locate or afford the top pick. They are super detailed in their reviews and comparisons, and often link to amazon sites for cost estimates (I am sure amazon is in on this, but whatever).

(They also have a gadget associate site called the Wirecutter which is also handy. www.thewirecutter.com)

We have purchased many smaller household items based upon the Sweet Home recommendation sites: my beloved food processor, our comforter, a kettle, even nail clippers (Tweezerman by the way!).

This was the first time though that we used it to purchase a bigger ticket item.  It did not fail.

I have a new energy efficient, non-fabric-eating, clothes dryer.  It's an LG. It sings me a happy song when it is done drying. It dries everything from sheets, towels, duvet covers to regular ole clothes with no trouble...and it does not partake in Italian food.

I would show you a pic, cuz it's really pretty. But it's in my scary basement, where there is poor lighting and lots of cobwebs.  So maybe another day...

Anyhow..check it out! (oh and this was not sponsored...I wish! Just wanted to pass it along with hopes someone might find it helpful :) )

Happy Tuesday.

K.

Oh man...bring back the pink washer dryer sets!






Wild Blueberry and Peach Galette

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Hello!  Hope you all had a wonderful summer weekend. It was amazing weather here in Yarmouth. Beach weather all 'round which is just what the munchkin wanted.

Andrew painted our bedroom this weekend (I helped a little ;) ), installed a dual flush toilet in our master bath and painted the wallpaper-free wall in our front room.  He was a busy bee. Thanks sweetie!

We went to a friends house for supper last night and I offered to make dessert (cuz I LOVE baking). I had been seeing galettes on my instagram feed since the beginning of the summer (by the way you can find me: @perkinkf on instagram). Thought I would give it a shot!

The buzzword attached to galette is "Rustic Pie".  This is code word for "Lazy Pie".

It's basically half a pie. With no pie dish to wash.

You can really put any fruit in a pie or galette. On Friday, I had purchased some peaches and blueberries at the Dayton Fruit Stand and I knew they would pair well together for this recipe.


So on to the recipe!

I had previously found a perfect pie crust recipe and I had no desire to play around with that.

It's by Deb Perelman of "Smitten Kitchen" fame.

You can find the link to her crust here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/11/pie-crust-102-all-butter-really-flaky-pie-dough/

This recipe makes two crusts.  I haven't played around with halving the recipe.  I would just recommend following it and then you can make two galettes or put one half of the dough in the fridge or freezer, to use for something else.

One thing that I do that she doesn't, is use a food processor to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients.  The theory is that the less the butter touches your hands, the less the heat from your hands can melt it.  If the butter is intact in the crust, it creates a little pocket around it. Butter melting, while cooking in a pie crust, releases steam and heat; expanding the crust around it. This leads to flakiness. I use the pulse setting and this allows me to control how small the crumbs of butter get (usually from a pea to the size of your smallest fingernail).


Anyhow, food processor or no food processor, it's an awesome recipe and she really explains the recipe, the technique and the reasoning behind it.

I played around with the filling a bit after reading a few recipes online.


Filling:

4 cups of sliced peaches (about 4-5 peaches; I left the skin on)
2 handfuls of blueberries (scientific, I know...but it's basically blueberries to taste)
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cornstarch (to help absorb some of the juice released from the fruit)

Place the fruit in a large bowl and coat with sugar and cornstarch.


Roll out your crust into a circle and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Don't worry about whether it's a perfect circle.  It's RUSTIC remember? ...and you fold up the edges later.

Place the fruit in the crust, leaving at least two to three inches on the sides. You can arrange the peaches in a circle pattern or drop then in as they fall. I put the blueberries on the top, just cuz it looked pretty.


Then you fold up the edges.  I tried to do small tucks, as you see in the picture, but it's really up to you.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat one egg lightly and brush egg wash on the crust top.  This egg wash browns the crust nicely.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until crust is nice and brown, and fruit is bubbling.

Once removed from the oven, let it sit on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes.  Then use the parchment paper to help transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool until just slightly warm and then you can transfer to a serving plate.

Slice and enjoy with toasted almonds and whipped cream (or ice cream!) on top.


I (along with the dinner guests) really enjoyed this galette. I plan on trying it with other fruits (maybe a full on blueberry one!). In addition, I have seen savoury galettes, which would be a neat thing to try, given I am drawn to the sweet things.

Hope you all have a great week! Chat soon :)










Storage

Friday, 14 August 2015

So old homes...at least as old as the home we currently live in (around 100 years old), are known to be short on storage. For sure...there are some issues. We have no storage for coats and shoes. Minimal for linens and towels. Hockey gear is stored in the damp basement. Oh yeah. Bet you can tell how that smells.

On the good side..somewhere along the way, someone built some custom built-ins in our office/playroom and in our bedroom. While not sophisticated, they definitely do the job. So much so, that it seems that we have felt the need to stuff them to the gills.

Part of our current setup with built-ins in the office/playroom


So one day I was making mental lists re: the things in the built ins....

Step 1: Purge stuff

Step 2: Realization. Uh oh. Custom built ins don't move to new houses.

Step 3: Further Realization. Uh oh. Custom built ins are expensive!

Step 4: Look for storage solutions.

So in building a new house, you often have a large mortgage that is probably going to be bigger than you originally ever dreamed it would be. Check. You have to buy new appliances. Check. You have to pay someone to move your (pared down?) earthly goods to said house. Yep. Finally, you tell yourself that you might have some nickels to rub together to help furnish this new place. Yeah.

Let's be honest. Nobody lives in HGTV-land. Nobody really buys everything all at once and it's perfectly furnished in the most beautiful vignettes; styled and photo ready. So my storage solution plan is to try to source some second hand options and some less expensive modern looking new pieces and build from there.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Second hand options

First off: Next time I am in Halifax, I neeeed to check out Abode. (www.abodeboutique.ca) I haven't been there yet, but they seem to sell wonderful examples of second hand midcentury modern pieces!

A Rosewood Mid Century Modern sideboard from Abode


Second off: I want to check out reLove. (www.relovehalifax.com) They sell and repurpose/refinish a lot of second hand mid century modern pieces. Their stuff sells fast! They also seem to partner with Abode frequently. Plus, their custom stuff looks amazing and is very reasonably priced.

A refinished mid century modern buffet from reLove!


Third off: Kijiji. (see a few posts back)


Less expensive, new options

Ikea. The end.

Well. maybe. I haven't been able to find anything I like in terms of modern style, that is new, and is in my budget.

Let me know if you know of some online CANADIAN stores that ship relatively cheap. There are american options but with the exchange rate, duty and shipping. Nope.

I am sure it will come together in the end. Please send me source ideas!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Hemnes 8 Drawer Dresser to help replace our bedroom built ins!

Love the combination of small drawers for socks and intimates and larger drawers for sweaters and pants



Thumbs up for this Ikea PS cabinet for Emma's craft materials and small toys

A Besta Ikea cabinet for our TV and growing collection of children's movies!


Addendum: Found two!  Bouclair Home and Structube.  I am completely unaware of how easy they are to work with but will keep you posted.




Fall is Coming.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


(The title just doesn't have the same presence when you replace "Winter" with "Fall", does it?)

So, it's August 12th. Technically, still summer. Anyone else feel some sort of change in the air? Down in the south west, it's been cooler at night and later to warm up during the day. Of course, the humidity likes to linger.

We bought our first pint of blueberries today from the farmer's market. No more strawberries. WAH! A sure sign of oncoming fall.

I know a lot of people love the fall. I do really enjoy it. But...I really love summer! Maybe as we grow older, we just don't tolerate the cold as well anymore. Anyhow, I digress.

I thought it would be fun to list some gorgeous fall-inspired accessories from Etsy this week. Among them, some handmade knits.

This year I told myself I would learn to knit (other than just cast on and purl). That did not happen..despite getting needles, an idiot's guide to knitting book and best intentions. Maybe some of the knitted goods will inspire me to try it? What knitting advice do you have for me?


(Click on the caption to link to the Etsy store!)



The enviable Ledge Harbour Slouch from local Nova Scotian knitter, Ingrid d'Eon



A gorgeous oiled brown leather bag designed by Beckie Sims! 
I was first introduced to these amazing earrings in Montreal. By Rare Specimens

Cozy cream infinity scarf from Pika Pika in BC

Hope you all have a great end to your week! It's all downhill from here!












Wild Raspberries

Monday, 10 August 2015

I have a very distinct memory related to wild raspberries. Growing up in Newfoundland, it was quite common to go berry picking in the summer and early fall (I suspect it still is). Raspberries, low bush blueberries, partridgeberries, bakeapples..you name it. All wild....I HATED it. Berry picking was the ultimate in boring and I was too cool for it (or so I thought).

I remember one time when my parents told me we were going raspberry picking and I made such a fuss, crying, that I gave myself a nosebleed.  It totally worked: we didn't end up going. Success! I was so happy. Hahaha, amateurs.

I can't say for certain when the tide changed, but when it did, it did in a big way: "You can pick the freshest berries imaginable, 10 minutes from home...and in some cases for FREE?". Sign me up!

This week I walked from work, to our piece of land at lunchtime, and was thrilled to find wild raspberry and blackberry bushes. Wahoo! After work on friday, we brought Emma to do some picking. We thought it would be a fun family activity....yeah.

 "Moooomm, when can we go?".



She definitely wasn't thrilled to be picking wild, organic, fresh raspberries, like I was. 

It was hot. Full of flies. Lots of thorns. Promises of the beach. 

It was like I had come full circle, so to speak. Parenting Karma Gods: 1  Katie: 0

We didn't get more than a cup full of wild "scrappy" raspberries. Emma ate the "pretty" ones. We did get a ridiculous number of scratches and fly bites. 

I still thought it was great!



I took the scrappy berries and made a miniature pot of jam.

I think it's awesome.

And Emma does too...for now..





Hopefully in a few weeks time, we will have blackberry adventures! 

Meanwhile, a friend (Hi Lynette!) suggested we tag some of the bushes with ribbons, so that we can save a few bushes from being dug up, when we start building. Then we can have fresh wild raspberries every year....oh how the tides really did change! Have a good week! :)


S'mores Cake (!!) and Experimentation with Flour

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Happy Sunday! Hope you all had a good weekend. The week starts new tomorrow. But first.....Cake.....cuz cake deserves a capital C and to be eaten on a day off.

My birthday was in July but we were travelling in Ontario. It just didn't make sense to have a birthday cake! So on a delay, I decided to make one of my favourites in late honour of the big yearly day: S'mores cake. The original recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (www.smittenkitchen.com). But I first came across it on Renee Kohlman's blog: Sweet Sugar Bean. (www.sweetsugarbean.com). Just read on her blog that she has a cook book coming out and I am so excited to read it!  Her writing and blogging is just lovely.



I had made the recipe a few times before, and noted that when using the mixer to make it, it made the cake quite tough and dry. Of course, in doing some reading about baking, I come time find out the aggressive mixing of mixer develops the gluten in the flour; making the cake dense in structure. 

A great article about gluten in flours here: http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-cake-flou-74565 

Next time I made the cake, I used AP flour but only hand folded and mixed during the wet-dry ingredient incorporation. A little better, but still not the texture I was looking for. 

So this time...I decided to try something new! (to me). Cake and pastry flour!  As I wasn't sure what I was going to end up with, I just bought a small package from the superstore (no name brand). I substituted the cake and pastry flour, cup for cup, for AP flour. 

I also read that you can make your own cake and pastry flour by mixing 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 cup minus two tablespoons of AP flour. Sift the two together repeatedly (4-5 times). 

Overall, the texture of the cake with the cake and pastry flour was markedly moister.  I think I am a convert! I would still definitely recommend hand incorporating the wet and dry ingredients to ensure maximum control and preventing over-mixing. 

S'mores cake with Salted Chocolate Ganache & Seven Minute "Marshmellow" Icing

Cake: 

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups of flour (AP or cake and pastry)
2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, processed in a blender or food processor until fine
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs at room temp
2 cups of buttermilk (buttermilk hack: add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let sit for 15 mins to curdle)

Ganache:
225 grams of milk chocolate (like Lindt), chopped 
3/4 cups of whipping cream
2 to 3 generous pinches of salt

Icing:
4 large egg whites
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9 inch cake pans and then line with circles of parchment paper.

Use a mixer to cream softened butter. Add sugars and whip until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each one. Add vanilla. Whip the mixture a few extra minutes to increase the size of the mixture. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients: flour, graham cracker flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon. Evenly mix. 

Fold in a third of dry ingredients into butter/egg/sugar mixture. Alternate with buttermilk until all is incorporated. Do not over mix.

Divide batter into cake pans.  Drop each pan gently on a counter surface or tabletop to remove bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick is clean. You need to make sure the cake is cooled fully before putting on ganache or icing.

To make the ganache: heat the whipping cream and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Pour over chopped chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Let sit one minute and then whisk til smooth. Place in the fridge and then take out a whisk vigorously every 15 minutes or so until it is thick enough to spread.

To make the icing: After separating eggs, put the whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until whites are warm to touch (approx. 3 minutes). Place in stand mixer bowl or use hand mixer to whip on high until stiff peaks are achieved. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

This is "Elsa" enjoying some leftover icing


Arrange bottom cake layer on a serving plate. If cake top is uneven, cut off top to make even and place cake, upside down, on the plate.


Spread on ganache and then top with second layer of cake. 


Spread on icing. If there is a time period between finished cake and serving, store in the fridge (especially in the summer since the icing tends to melt).



The cake is mostly eaten now. It's sad when birthday cakes are gone! But this cake would work for any time really. Hope to share some more baking recipes again soon!



The Gallery Wall

Thursday, 6 August 2015

So the wallpaper is stripped from our the wall in our front room (See a few posts back).  The plan is to paint it the same grey that the rest of the walls are (Enchanted Flute by Sico paint...I know it's a lame name but I used to play the flute, so I took it as a sign, cuz I'm weird like that). 

We had some large beveled mirrors with black frames on the wall, but I really don't see them back up there (Anyone want to buy some beveled mirrors?). I really want to add some character back into the room but have something that would be easily transported to a new house. So I have been considering my options.

You may have noticed that it's kinda trendy to have a gallery wall these days in your home if you look at any design magazine.

Black and white art/photo gallery

I actually think the idea looks fabulous in it's execution with some considerations. I have really been thinking about this...one issue in particular...just bear with me..

Since I had been thinking about a gallery wall for a while, I had done some looking around on pinterest and etsy for ideas of what I could include in my gallery wall (cuz seriously, who can afford to go out and buy all original art). In doing so, I found something stood out like a sore thumb: the invention of the "throw away" print.  You know the ones: Slogans/sayings in pretty script that say something like "All You Need is Love" with a metallic heart on it or "Not all People that Wander are Lost" with a feather on it. Cheap and pretty in principal but maybe not the most meaningful?

My dad has been a painter all my life.  He always said he hated the thought of people buying his art with the intention of matching it to their furniture or seeing it if "went" with the room. IMO, Art should mean something to you, say something to you or make you feel something. It should inspire you. It shouldn't be about it's ability to match your decor. 

In saying this, I am sharing a commitment to aspire to find meaningful pieces for my gallery wall, beyond just what looks good aesthetically in a frame to me. I am convinced it can be done beautifully and at a reasonable cost. I am also convinced that it may be difficult to do so all at once and it may take some time, searching and patience.

Phew!  Glad I got that off my chest!

(On an aside: I do think it's entirely possible that a "throw away" print may have meaning to some people. I just challenge you to find that meaning before purchase....


I will leave you with some lovely examples of gallery walls I found on pinterest or in publications. I hope to do an update post as my wall comes together!


Bold, high contrast art with mostly black frames/white matting

Eclectic art mediums with bright colours and varied framing (or lack there of) options


All white frames look uniform and cohesive

Where do you find your art happiness?



My top 10 Baking Tools

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Baking has always had a presence in my life from a young age.  I have a picture of myself as a 2 year old "helping" with bread making.

My brother and father have food allergies, and we frequently had to make sweet treats from scratch, to know exactly what was in them. We were eating vegan chocolate cakes long before we knew what vegan was! It was totally fun and totally normal for me to bake regularly.

I took a baking hiatus in my university years. Who needed to bake when you could eat cookie dough from a package and Tim Horton's was around the corner?

As I started taking more of an interest in making all my family's food from scratch, I re-discovered my interest in baking. With the introduction of Pinterest, Anna Olsen and baking blogs into my life, I became hooked on "figuring out" baking.

A baking expert I am not, but I have some favourite baking "tools" I like to have in my back pocket. Some we have had since we got married; others have been acquired through investment; others are cheap and cheerful. Check it out!

1) A one piece silicone spatula

I got mine from the dollar store (whoop whoop!).  I have had many a spatula in my baking life. I had ones that had a plastic handle with silicone blade. But the blade always falls off and collects moisture, which of course leads to mildew in your spatula. Ew. Not the kind of thing you want to be baking with.  You also don't have to worry about the plastic handle melting, if you leave it on the pot rim, while making candy.  Which leads me to my next one....

2) Candy Thermometer

I starting making candy/brittle several years ago when I got a coveted "Christmas crack" recipe (stay tuned for that one!). The whole, figuring out the soft ball/hard ball/soft crack/hard crack stages was too complex and too messy.... Enter: candy thermometer. I got mine from our local Sobeys grocery store. It allows you to be swift when you hit that hard crack stage which prevents burning. In addition, there is no guessing if it's going to set properly. It is also helpful for making caramel sauce and deep frying anything (check out legendary Chuck Hughes deep fried mars bar).

3) Parchment Paper

Parchment paper revolutionized my baking. Just use it.




4) Cuisinart's steel baking sheets

These are pans are substantial and put up with anything.  No warping and easy cleaning. I use these daily and got them on super-sale at my local Canadian Tire. 

5) A food scale

No self respecting baker wouldn't have it in their kitchen. Baking is a science. Depending on temperature of ingredients, air temperature, humidity etc, it may change the volume of your ingredients...hence measuring cups just aren't as precise. A lot of "legit" baker blogs like "Smitten Kitchen" often provide ingredient weights. Some blogs are really tough and ONLY provide the ingredient weights!  In the end, it really allows for less complicated baking, less error and hopefully more success in your science experiment.

6) Cuisinart 14-cup food processor

Oh my love for my food processor knows no bounds!  I use it a lot in my cooking, but it is also a star in the baking world, in my opinion.  I use it to grind graham crackers into crumbs, oats into flour, coarsely chop nuts in seconds and incorporate butter easily and quickly into flour for pie crusts and scones (more on that another day!). If there is one investment piece for your kitchen let it be a food processor.



7) Emile Henry Ceramic pie plate

After I got over my pie crust fear (thanks Sherrie!), I fell in love with my pie plate that I got as a wedding present. It bakes crusts so evenly, looks beautiful and helps create gorgeous curvy edges.




8) Stainless Steel Mixing bowls

Love the little ones for use in a double boiler for melting chocolate and the large ones for larger baking projects.  You can purchase in sets and keep them recessed for easy storage. They are also indestructible, as I have the same ones I got nine years ago as a wedding gift.

9) Stacking cooling racks

Amazing for individuals with tight counter space who love to bake in multiples. They usually sell in sets of three, which allows for easy cooling of large batches of cookies, scones, biscuits etc. I admittedly have a set that is coated. I wouldn't recommend, as the coating is flaking off now.  Time to invest in stainless steel!

10) Kitchen Aid Stand mixer

I really debated on including this one.  I did because it is the only electric mixer/whipper option that works for me in my kitchen.  Is it the be all and end all? No. So don't feel guilty if you can't afford one! It has more versatility than your run-of-the-mill hand mixer and it's fun to use. That I can't deny....Darn it! There is no stand mixer emoticon! In the end, there is a lot of be said for the precision that is achieved with hand mixing and folding...so maybe number 10 should be our hands.


What did I miss? What are your baking must haves?


Light Reading

Monday, 3 August 2015

Hello!  Thanks for being patient with the spacing of my posts!

Hope you all had a great weekend! I know I did! A trip to Halifax is always a good time. These days with the handy smart phone, I definitely keep busy during the three hour plus trip doing some perusing of twitter, insta and, of course, facebook.

One of the best things about social media accounts is that I often find links to amazing articles that I wouldn't necessarily read, otherwise.  I am not the most adventurous, at times, in my reading of books or novels, because of the perceived time commitment to a book that may end up being a wash. (Dude, when old reliables like Judy Blume, publish a downer book in the summer...I am at a loss).

Web articles always have the chance to rock my world in less than 20 minutes.  What else could you ask for? In the end, I am a fabulous skimmer and if the story is not so great...not too much time wasted. With most articles, I usually end up learning something and occasionally, it sparks my interest on a topic that I wouldn't necessarily have been intrigued by.

I have a strong bias in my web article reading to medical related material. It's related to my job and the medical world just fascinates me.

I also love a good human interest story or prodigy that does amazing things. (Check out William Masters and Virginia Johnson!) I always end up falling down Wikipedia-wells on these types of outliers.

Finally, I loooove a good blog. My bookmarks are filled with blog links. Some I check daily; some weekly.

Anyhoo, hope you have a good start to your (hopefully) shortened week! I have the luxury of another day at home.  Hope to do some "Frenchying" and poking around town. Have a good one ;)

Check out some articles and blogs that I have really enjoyed lately!
Exclusive Q & A with Frances Bean Cobain re: HBO's revealing documentary about Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck  (If you ever loved Nirvana...watch this documentary!)
Emily Henderson's amazing design blog! Gorgeous aesthetic, sweet stories and lots of design inspiration. One of my favorite posts of late: http://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/bad-wood-finishes


Anatomy of Error by Joshua Rothman of the New Yorker. An article about Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh  (By the way if you ever want to challenge your brain to stay focused...read an article in the New Yorker!)